EAST LANSING – Michigan State basketball isn't done yet.
Tom Izzo led teams haven't ever waited this long to find themselves, but following an 81-72 victory over No. 5 Illinois, there is a legitimate chance MSU makes the NCAA tournament.
"I'm really proud of this team," Izzo said. "They've been through hell and high water."
The Spartans played one of the country's best teams and met them head-on as they continuously fought for their season.
Suddenly, MSU is riding its best players, for better or worse, from here on out, and Aaron Henry is leading the way.
"I'm trying to win; I don't know any other way to put it ... I play games to win. I never ever liked losing," the junior captain said in a videoconference. "It's never sat with me well."
He outplayed Ayo Dosunmu, a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, locking him up defensively and backing him down on the other end.
Michigan State is asking a lot out of Henry, but he remains up to the task, finishing with 20 points, six boards, five assists, two blocks, and two steals in 39 minutes of action.
That performance came after logging 40 minutes against Indiana, another game where he was vital to MSU's success.
"I don't get tired. I won't get tired. I don't got time to get tired; that's how I feel," said Henry.
Izzo stuck with Henry, Joshua Langford, Rocket Watts, and Gabe Brown, the same group who helped turn the tide at IU while rotating every center available.
Michigan State had 20 fouls to give and didn't care if Kofi Cockburn lived at the line due to his inability to hit free-throws at a high rate.
By doing so, Thomas Kithier and Julius Marble fouled out, Mady Sissoko was ejected, and Marcus Bingham Jr. sat on the bench in the final minutes with four fouls.
It worked out in their favor as the 7-footer ended his night 3-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Watts, Langford, and Brown combined for 33 points, 21 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks, and three steals.
The Spartans certainly didn't want things to come together this late in the year, a sentiment Henry echoed in the postgame, but here they are, with another great opportunity coming Thursday night.
"Long way to go yet; we all know that," Izzo said. "Tough task ahead with another game against Ohio State ... It's gonna be fun."
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